The True Mirror: Can you really see yourself?
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on November 19, 2013. Posted with permission.
Look at yourself in the mirror. If you think you’re seeing yourself, you’re mistaken. You’re backwards.
This is not insignificant, according to John Walter, an artist/scientist who creates True Mirrors. Unlike a standard mirror that flips your image, the True Mirror displays exactly how you look to the rest of the world. Standing in front of a True Mirror is stepping outside of yourself, and you are seeing yourself accurately for the first time.
Unconvinced? Google “Abraham Lincoln mirror image” and you will see the juxtaposition between the world’s perspective and his own.
Do other people know you better than you know yourself?
The True Mirror as designed by Walter is actually two mirrors touching at a 90 degree angle. Yet the connection between the two is so exquisitely crafted that the seam is invisible.
Angelika Linke, a meditation leader and yogi in Mexico, has integrated the True Mirror into her workshops because most people don’t even begin to question the intricate relationships they have with their own reflections.
“I remind students that our bodies are seen in the True Mirror from the perspective of others, looking outside in. It is a reflection of what is going on ‘relatively’ inside so they can give themselves correct feedback, and also they can correctly communicate with themselves by looking into their eyes from left to right, right to left,” Linke said.
After Linke gives students the opportunity to sense themselves in the True Mirror, she encourages all to disidentify from their reversed, negative, non-existing mirror images which keeps the myth of a separate self alive, a separation that causes the illusion of fear, the root of individual suffering.
Indeed, the traditional mirror provides a false image, and we funnel so much effort and energy into that imaginary image, an image that feeds into how we construct our own stories and understandings of ourselves.
“It’s such a simple concept, yet it has profound implications and values,” Walter said.
When people first look into the true mirror, reactions are mixed. According to Walter, most people are disconcerted. Asymmetries will appear exaggerated. A nose that was always off one degree to the right in a regular mirror is now two degrees off to the left.
When making eye contact with another human being, it’s right eye to left eye and left to right. The regular mirror reverses it. We can’t even authentically connect with our own eyes as others do. No wonder the inner critic materializes in a traditional mirror.
“All the criticism we give ourselves is backwards,” Walter said. “The True Mirror helps us to reacquaint ourselves with our naturalness.” Perhaps this is why we tend to be alienated from photos of ourselves, and we are highly selective of the ones we post on Facebook. Our photographic images are not the familiar mirrored faces.
Walter’s True Mirror was included as an art installation at the Hollywood Yoga Journal Conference in November. As I approached the mirror, even from five feet away, I knew I was looking at a stranger. My face appeared crooked, and I tried to smile, but I pursed my lips before I asked aloud, “Who is this person?”
Walter, sensing my discombobulation, suggested that I look into my own eyes as others do.
At that moment, my inner judge vanished. The self is a harsh critic. In an ordinary mirror, I snarl at my imperfections, yet with the True Mirror, I stepped outside of my body and engaged a fellow human being with truthful neutrality, kindness. I noted with empathy the fatigue around my eyes (the conference was exhausting), some extra weight I had gathered in the past months, the scar on the side of my nose, the mascara smear under my right eye which I tried to wipe away under my left, oops. Learning curve.
“You are sharing and connecting with the self in a way that validates you. Seeing is believing,” Walter said. True, I wasn’t snarling anymore. I was observing.
Yves Dore, author of a magnificent online essay called The Narcissus Syndrome Revisited, suggests that mirrors numb us to our authentic selves, and the more we stare into them, the more alienated we get.
Dore suggests a simple activity to expose your doppelganger. As you stare into your bathroom mirror, lick a tiny piece of toilet paper and stick it on the mirror at the center of your forehead. Trust me that something is going to happen. What you make of it is up to you.
The trick is to stop identifying with the mirror image. Linke tells students that she does not want to give them a new image, but to realize what they knew but had forgotten: “We are being, consciousness and awareness disguised as a person.”
In the words of John Walter, the True Mirror gives us a chance to love ourselves without being narcissistic.
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